In 29 years of police work, one thing that I found to be consistent was that the perception of what law enforcement administration believed was the main problem in a neighborhood often differed from what the residents of that neighborhood perceived to be the main problem. While statistics may have been used as the basis for administrative presumption the actual experiences of the residents themselves often won out as the issue they wanted solved first. The philosophy of Community Oriented Policing often used these perceptions by solving an issue that was of a concern to the community thus paving the way to address the police issue and gaining community awareness of the stated problem and cooperation in solving both. This helped build a spirit of teamwork within the neighborhood that the officer served and the department charged with reducing and preventing crime. In other words, they spoke and we listened; we acted and they listened. Communication was established and problems were solved.
The key word there is listened! During this past week I have had the opportunity through the campaign process of speaking to groups of workers, association members and random citizens from all walks of life. Every group I have spoken to thus far has been diverse and predominately lower middle to middle class. They are the everyday citizens of Greensboro and they have their own perceptions of what they want addressed in our city. Thus far the concerns have been consistent. You see, these folks have not been privileged to attend closed door sessions or high society fund raisers. They are tired of hearing the same old excuses and very much want Greensboro to grow. They are also asking questions of candidates that are new and looking for reasons to show up to vote. And they aren't hiding their approval or disapproval of your ideas or positions. Hear the problem, assess the problem, plan a solution and execute the plan; oh yeah, do it as quickly as possible. Sounds a lot like a job that I once had.
So what am I hearing? Four consistent themes; one dominating the news, one major position important to me, one that we have heard for several years and one you wouldn't think would be in the general citizenship's conscience. Let's work our way backwards. Apparently the general labor force in Greensboro has heard the term "outsource" and the plans to do so in their own companies and within the halls of city government. They really don't like it. It is viewed as an insult to workers and usually as something that costs more to accomplish less; like spending $150,000 for an out of town consultant to tell the city how to spend $500,000. Or maybe privatizing certain jobs that would cost workers hours and wages even though those workers are experts in their fields and would do the jobs better and more efficiently. The work force in Greensboro is more educated on these terms and strategies than we think; and they feel like they have been sold short and sold out.
Citizens are asking when larger corporations that usually provide higher wages, better benefits packages and more stable job security are going to start calling Greensboro home again? They are also wondering why current, available and unoccupied commercial land and buildings are not being marketed more aggressively in lieu of further development in areas that don't need it and whose residents don't want it.
City workers feel as if they are constantly under attack from their own City Council and Manager. They also feel as if they have no voice, no one they can remotely identify with on the council and certainly not in the City Manager's chair. They hear officials speak of the need to reduce their pay, retirement, benefits and even their jobs though they see Council spending tens of thousands of tax payer dollars on job searches, studies and private museums. They recently heard of a "need" to reduce retirement levels to match those plans in the private sector though no mention of adding profit sharing or stock options that compensate for lower retirement pay in the private sector were discussed. They are angry that the fact that many talented city employees stay with the lower paying city because of their benefits doesn't appear to resonate with a City Council where none of the members have ever held a city job. They see opportunistic antagonists bully management, helplessly watching as management gives in to the bully's demands and punishes employees in the name of accomplishing appeasement.
Finally, they want the Civil Rights Museum solved one way or the other, once and for all. The majority of residents I have spoken to are not only tired of hearing it, they are tired of paying for it; and they are not only on one side of town. The vast majority of people that I have spoken to that live in ALL areas of Greensboro do not trust the current management to preserve the museum or ever operate it to "break even". When presented with the plan I published in an earlier blog as one possible way to save it, that plan was met with enthusiasm and with looks of "why hasn't that already been done"? As I have told each group, I don't know if the plan is financially feasible but at least it is a PLAN! This past week the council decided to take no action thus allowing a final quarter of a million dollars to be thrown away never to be seen again. Once again no one on council was made to cast a vote which would have gotten them on record as who supports giving away this money and who doesn't. Therefore, even Justin Outling who seemingly spoke against giving the money was never held to an official vote. That's the best of both worlds; District 3 where he is running saw him speak against it but two PACs in east Greensboro can say he is not officially on record as opposing it. It is way past time that each council member state a concrete position and cast an "on the record" vote.
This is what this candidate is hearing from the citizens of Greensboro. These are not hard issues to address. By addressing the perceived concerns of the citizens, they will be much more receptive and confident in their city government to handle the issues that are not in their everyday conscience. Incumbents; can you hear them? Are you listening?